Favorite Friday: Words and trees

Note from Priscilla: You saw it once, but that blog post disappeared without making the Top Ten. Favorite Friday is a chance to revisit earlier posts and enjoy them once again. This post first appeared on March 17, 2010.

This week is spring break at the college where I teach, and I’m enjoying a respite from the endless flow of words. (Ironic that I sit down to write a blog post.) For a person who deals in words, I sometimes get weary of them. Words in emails, words in phone calls, words in books and media. How completely we humans rely on words! And how they leave us wanting in the deepest, most intense moments of our lives—when we are in love or in grief, when words say too much or too little but rarely approach the truth of the experience.

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 7.29.30 AMWhich is why I’m remembering some wisdom from the Dagara people of Burkina Faso in west Africa, as related by Malidoma Somé in The Healing Wisdom of Africa. (Full disclosure: I was paid to edit and develop this book a dozen years ago.)

Language, say the Dagara, is but a distant echo of the meaning to be found at the center of all-that-is. Writes Somé,

Words are but a remote reflection of meaning, like the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave. . . . “To utter” [for the Dagara] means to be in exile.

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